Free Fallin on the Jukebox

Back in the late 90s, I called the local mall, my catwalk. It was the place to window shop, grab a Frappuccino and watch all the cute guys walk by. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t drive and many of the cute guys, I admired were still closeted or not gay.

I didn’t quite bask in my high school existence, which screamed suburban America. There were many prominent subcultures in school. The jocks who played football, jocks who didn’t play football, cheerleaders, drama geeks, math geeks and the anti-establishment, hacky sack crowd, made up the quilt of existence for my local high school.

“Gee, where I do I fit in, here?” asked I. As one of the only openly gay kids at school, I lived in my own imaginary land. I dreamed of living in New York, seeing exotic lands, becoming a published author and of course, meeting a cute nerdy dude.

Once in a while, I departed imaginary land and was brought back to my very own brand of teenage angst. “Shit my grades suck, my face looks like a greasy pepperoni pizza and my stomach fat is giving me a muffin top,” said I, while in the back of the local convenience store.

My friend Clifford just shook his head. “That’s cool dude, just run with that,” said Clifford. He pulled out a precious white box from his backpack. From the box, he pulled out a cigarette. With great ease, he lit the cigarette. The smell was slightly intoxicating. More mesmerizing were his bright green eyes. He noticed I stared at his cigarette in curiosity.

“You want a puff?” he asked, with a calm exterior. “I’m okay,” said I with great confidence. “C’mon, it’s one puff, he persisted. “I am not one to give into peer pressure,” said I.

He handed me the cigarette, “c’mon give it a try,” he said. I peered into his eyes and took the cigarette. I examined it. With great ease, I took a puff. It was still wet from his saliva touching the tip of the cigarette.

After taking one puff, coughing persisted. “Shit, fuck, shit,” said I. “Wow, you’re one step closer to being a bad ass, said Clifford. “Really?” asked I. “No, dude,” he replied. “I can’t believe I smoked, my parents are going to kill me,” said I. Internally, I was delighted to have a bonding moment with Clifford, whom I regarded as an attractive confidant.

While basking in the initial glory of breaking the rules, I was later, riddled with guilt. “Oy, I pay too much attention in religion class. Should I go to confession and tell the priest I was smoking behind the convenience store?” asked I, internally.

As predicted, my guilty conscience persisted. Then I took a shopping and lunch trip to Newport Beach with my mom. We sat for lunch at the California Pizza Kitchen. As I sipped my soda, she asked me about school. Instantly I replied, “ I smoked a cigarette.”

My mother was a very conservative lady, who didn’t take kindly to smoking and booze. I was waiting for her face to fade into intense rouge. “Anthony, nothing you do surprises me,” she said. Rather than getting grounded until retirement age, it was dismissed as a life experience.

Years later I dropped the guilty conscience and enjoyed life. Being well-behaved gets old. A little rebellion and middle fingers to the air make life exciting. On the subject of exciting, I look forward to my next trip to California(where I grew up), since I still secretly love mall culture, especially the Nordstrom shoe sale and going to Cinabon for (you guessed it), a cinnamon roll.

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